One Month to Become a Mum was first submitted to Mills and Boon New Voices contest in 2010. The first chapter was read by an editor who liked it, suggested some changes and then asked to see some more....and so we went on for a few months. More chapters, more changes, until one day I got ‘The Call’ telling me that Mills and Boon wanted to buy this book and offered me a contract for a second (as yet unwritten) book.
One Month... is a story of lost hope, my Dear Reader letter at the front of the book says it all:
This story is set in North Beach, a fictional place based on the many beautiful townships dotted around coastal New Zealand. The sparkling ocean, white sand and friendly community offer a haven of tranquility.
For Jessie and Luke North Beach also offers a fabulous place to heal a broken heart- although they’re both too stubborn to realise it.
We all have our fantasies of how our happy-ever-after will be. But for Jessie and Luke past experiences have tainted their ideals. They’ve both experienced loss and abandonment, and neither is looking for love.
While writing this I wanted to explore themes of hope in the face of tragedy, aand to examine what ‘family’ means. Is it purely flesh and blood? Or is it forged from the emotional ties that bind us?
I hope you enjoy Jessie and Luke’s journey, watching them slowly to learn trust, laugh and let in love again.
Praise for One Month to become a Mum:
“Written with plenty of assurance and style, One Month To Become a Mum is a terrific debut novel packed with warmth, charm, down to earth humour and poignant romance. Louisa George grabs her readers’ attention from the very first page and she will keep them eagerly turning the pages as they find themselves drawn into this heartwarming tale of second chances, healing from the past and finding love again.
With a wonderfully sassy heroine, a gorgeous hero, heart-pounding medical scenarios, sizzling sexual tension and feel-good romance, One Month to Becomes a Mum has winner written all over it!” Cataromance Blog Review...
Jessica Price dived deep into her brother’s backyard pool and savoured the cool water.
Heat burnt into her eyes. Damn.
Pain stabbed behind her eyeballs.
She breast-stroked to the pool edge and rubbed her face, squeezed the water from her eyes. And again. Tried to focus across the garden, but saw nothing except a series of blurred shadows. Soft edges.
Slipping out of the pool she stumbled to the outside shower, breath stuttering as ice-cold water doused her face.
That pool should come with a health warning. She’d have to check the chemical balance before she got in it again. Tired frustration limped through her jetlagged muscles. So much for a relaxing swim after a zillion hours on a plane.
‘Hello? Is someone there?’
The squeak of the gate and the man’s voice had her grabbing a towel and on alert. And so much for her craved-for peace and quiet. Go away. ‘Er…Hello?’
She switched off the tap, wrapped the towel around her waist, and glanced down at her stomach. Well covered. Good. Otherwise whisky-warm-voice man would have a view he’d be unlikely to forget in a hurry.
One glimpse of her scars would leave the poor guy with nightmares. Not as bad as hers, but disturbing enough.
‘Hello?’ She tried to focus on the blurry image in front of her, tilted her chin upwards and pretended she was used to entertaining strangers while dressed in four-year old saggy-bottomed togs and her brother’s faded All Blacks towel. ‘Can I help you?’
‘If you’re planning on a swim, forget it,’ the tall smudge said, ‘I just chucked ten litres of chlorine in.’
‘Too late, mate. No wonder my eyeballs feel like melting marshmallows skewered on sharp sticks.’ She pointed to her eyes and hoped they didn’t look as red as they felt. ‘Where I grew up Pool Boys left notes if there were excessive chemicals in the pool. It’s beyond dangerous. Imagine if a child had jumped in…’
‘And where I grew up we introduced ourselves before we hurled insults around.’ The warmth in his voice vanished, replaced with a tone as cold as the shower water. ‘I’m not your damned pool boy. I’m Luke McKenzie.’
The dramatic pause he left hanging in the air made her think she should know that name. The gravitas tone made her think everyone should know that name.
Some NZ Idol perhaps? A rugby player? It was lost on her, two years in Asian hinterland had her out of step with Kiwi celebrity. ‘Yes? And?’
‘Your brother’s business partner?’
‘Ah… Now you come to mention it…’ Her cheeks burned as recognition wrestled embarrassment for prime place in her jet-numbed brain. Big brother Zac had left a note, she’d scanned it as she’d thrown her rucksack down, but hadn’t paid much attention.
Luke. The doctor.
Tragic, with that frost-tinged-dark-velvet voice he was wasted in medicine. ‘That Luke.’
‘And I assume you’re Jessie? You weren’t supposed to arrive from Outer Mongolia -or wherever you were finding yourself -until tomorrow.’
‘I was not finding myself. I was working in Vietnam.’ Nice voice, shame about the manners. Typical, but when Zac begged her to baby-sit his General Practice he forgot to mention she’d be working with Captain Grump. ‘I thought I’d get an earlier plane and catch Zac before he headed off. No such luck.’
‘He left yesterday. Wanted to get an extra night in Queenstown, the parties are legendary.’ The stinging concentrated into a fierce ache behind her eyes. The Blur seemed to get larger. She guessed he’d come closer as a hint of warm citrus and spice male scent hung in the humid air. Very disconcerting. She tried not to inhale.
‘Your eyes look hellish. You might need to sloosh them with cold water.’
‘You don’t say?’
‘I do. So you’d better come with me.’ Before she could argue, a solid hand steered her into the kitchen and stood her next to the sink.
She shrugged him off. Perfecting the art of keeping her distance from tall overconfident men had taken a lot of willpower over the last two years. She had no intention of changing that now, melting eyeballs or not. ‘Seriously, I’m fine. I can manage.’
‘Good job I came back when I did. Chlorine fumes can make you pretty sick. You look cold.’
‘Geez, I wonder why.’
He wrapped a towel around her shoulders apparently oblivious to her shrugging or sarcasm.
In fact, he was surprisingly gentle. Assured and persistent. With a tender touch. Three qualities she’d once admired in a man, then learnt to avoid at all costs. A heady mix experience told her was a recipe for disaster.
Please go. Jessie clutched the towel tightly round her middle wishing she had something more appropriate to wear. Even though her swimsuit almost covered her from neck to knee, and looked like something Great Auntie Joan might have worn back in the day, she felt sure her scars were visible. She tried to steal a look but the pain was worse if she moved her eyeballs. ‘I’ve travelled the world on my own. I can manage an eye bath.’
‘Stop arguing and tip your head over the basin. I promised Zac I’d look after you.’
‘I’m not sure blinding his sister was quite what he had in mind.’ Even though her eyes burnt like merry hell she couldn’t help responding to the surprise of his laughter. It had a deep quality to it that resounded round the kitchen absorbing her ill-humour. She couldn’t stop a giggle as she held her palms up. ‘Okay, I’m tipping. I’m tipping.’
‘Are you always this melodramatic? I’m only trying to help.’ Whereas most men ran a mile from her barbed comments Luke seemed amused. Why weren’t her well-honed distancing techniques working today?
‘You’d be more help if you left.’
‘Quite the drama queen. Zac didn’t warn me about that.’
‘How dare…’ Ice water trickled down her face and silenced her retort. It was directed expertly into her eyes and down her hairline. Captain Grump supported her head, stroking her wet hair out of the way, his face only inches from hers. His breath, quickening with every movement, grazed her throat.
Hard muscles brushed against her hip as he curled around her to fill the measuring cup. Warm hands cupped her face as he wiped the water dripping down her chin.
At his touch a weird kind of buzz zinged along her nerve pathways. A buzz that made her want to see his features properly, the colour of his eyes.
Jessie swallowed. Get a grip. Since when did eye colour matter? He was an overbearing doctor with little regard for personal space. Although, she conceded, he’d probably see it as dealing with minor trauma.
The last time she was this close to a guy she’d been pumelling Michael’s doughy backside with her fists after discovering him having desk sex with the admin assistant. A direct result, he’d insisted, of Jessie’s inability to meet his needs.
Looking back she chose to see the scenario as funny, but she’d learnt the hard way about bombastic doctors with soft hands. So buzzing and zinging were totally off limits.
She shoved both the tacky image of Michael’s dimpled bottom and Captain Grump away, then dried her eyes on the towel, grappling for breathing space.
‘That’s great now. Thanks. You can go.’
‘Aw, and I was having so much fun.’ His sarcasm wasn’t missed. ‘I’m going. But if your eyes don’t get better you should get them checked over.’
‘And if you need anything, just holler.’
‘And Zac asked me to show you around.’
‘Another time.’ Like never?
‘Sure.’ He sounded relieved. ‘We’re just across the way, the old white villa.’
Across the way. Great, she’d moved into Wisteria Lane. All nosey neighbours and picture perfect families. Just what she didn’t need. Still, at least that meant he was probably married with a dozen kids – thank the Lord. Someone else to bother with his electric touch and alluring scent.
She’d make sure she wouldn’t need anything. ‘Absolutely, next time I want my eyes burning out of my skull I’ll be right over.’
Through the haze she noted a half-smile.
‘Otherwise, I’ll meet you in the cul de sac, Monday, eight o’clock sharp. I can show you the main sights, bring you up to speed with the practice on the drive to work.’ He turned and walked to the door, his long legs covering the distance in no time.
‘Hey, wait…’ The familiar unease Jessie thought she’d conquered tightened in her stomach. Get in a car with him? Get in a car, period? Her worst nightmare.
Flying, cycling, walking. She could do those, no problem. But driving in an unfamiliar car? Not if she could help it. ‘I’d planned to walk. Zac said it’s not far.’
‘We’re always busy Monday morning and I’ve a lot to tell you. Eight o’clock.’ His smile melted and his voice became serious and controlled.
Clearly he was a man used to getting his own way. He stood filling the doorway, one hand resting on the wall. The other hung at his side. Capable hands. Safe. No doubt his driving skills were satisfactory. Surely. Besides, she didn’t know the route. Driving would be fine. She shrugged her agreement. Just this once.
One Month to Become a Mum by Louisa George
Mills and Boon Medical Romance
Available from: www.millsandboon.co.uk